A Closer Look at National Space Council User’s Advisory Group Nominees

So, I finally had a chance to go through folks that Vice President Mike Pence nominated to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Below is my attempt to break down the 29 nominees by category. It’s far from perfect because several of them could easily be listed under multiple categories. But, here’s my best shot at it.


Bridenstine Nomination to Run NASA Remains Blocked in Senate

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Bloomberg has an update on the impasse in the Senate over the Trump Administration’s nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next NASA administrator.

Bridenstine has been blocked by all 49 Senate Democrats. Florida’s Congressional delegation enjoys an outsized influence on NASA because of Cape Canaveral, and Senator Bill Nelson, who flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, isn’t a Bridenstine fan. His colleague Marco Rubio, the junior senator for the Sunshine State and a Republican, doesn’t want Bridenstine, either. With fellow Republican John McCain of Arizona absent for cancer treatment, that leaves confirmation 50-49 against….

Beyond [Acting Administrator Robert] Lightfoot, the lack of movement on Capitol Hill effectively leaves NASA leadership to Scott Pace, executive director of the National Space Council, which [Donald] Trump revived last summer. The council has taken a direct role in overseeing NASA’s priorities, including the administration’s 2017 directive to return astronauts to the moon, but doesn’t have the same hands-on role an administrator would. Bridenstine has attended both National Space Council meetings, in October and last month, but only as an observer.

Rubio has argued that the NASA post shouldn’t be occupied by a politician, particularly one with stridently partisan positions. “It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics, and it’s at a critical juncture in its history,” he told Politico in September.

Bridenstine, a member of the highly conservative House Freedom Caucus, has drawn Democratic opposition for his views on gay marriage and abortion rights, as well as past statements dismissing climate change. And he may have rubbed Republican Rubio, and possibly McCain, the wrong way on account of his past support for their primary opponents.

In the 2016 presidential primaries, Bridenstine, a former Navy fighter pilot with an interest in space issues, produced several advertisements supporting Texas Senator Ted Cruz in his failed quest for the Republican nomination. Those ads criticized Rubio, also a candidate, for his position on immigration and attacks on Cruz. Rubio has reportedly denied a connection between Bridenstine’s past barbs and his opposition to the NASA nomination. Bridenstine also supported McCain’s Republican rival, Kelli Ward, in a fierce 2016 primary campaign that McCain eventually won.

Read the full story.

Report: Nield Departure from FAA Linked to Space Deregulation Push

FAA AST’s George Nield

The Wall Street Journal reports that George Nield’s decision to retire as head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) at the end of March is related to dissatisfaction over the pace of deregulating space activities.

But Mr. Nield’s leaving, according to industry and government officials, was prompted at least partly by White House and cabinet-level criticism that his initiatives to ease licensing procedures for rocket launches are proceeding too slowly. Members of the White House Space Council, a senior policy-making group, and the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary have expressed displeasure about the pace of change, these officials said.

The retirement, which was a surprise to some industry officials, also comes in the face of escalating pressure by budding commercial-space ventures to streamline federal rules, cutting the time and expense of obtaining launch licenses and approvals to operate spacecraft in orbit and beyond.

Mr. Nield’s decision could end up accelerating moves by top FAA officials, along with other parts of President Donald Trump’s administration, to ease or roll back regulations covering everything from earth-observation satellites to lunar landers to eventually mining minerals on asteroids.

Last week, the White House policy group chose the Commerce Department to serve as the main catalyst to promote U.S. commercial space ventures, effectively taking that role away from the FAA. During internal administration debates leading up to that public meeting, FAA critics pushed to strip the agency of authority over launch licensing, according to two people familiar with the details.

Mr. Nield’s office, which ultimately answers to the Transportation secretary, retained that responsibility but ended up with overall reduced stature.

Read the full story.

National Space Council Approves 4 Recommendations on Regulatory Reform

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will provide policy recommendations to the President to streamline the regulatory environment for commercial space companies. At the second National Space Council Meeting, the council agreed on the following four recommendations to reform the commercial space regulatory frameworks at the Departments of Transportation and Commerce:


Pence Names Candidates for National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group

Mike Pence

WASHINGTON (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, today announced the candidates selected to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.

Pending official appointment by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the selected members of the Users Advisory Group will serve to fulfill President Trump’s mandate to “foster close coordination, cooperation, and technology and information exchange” across our nation’s space enterprise.

The announcement as made on the eve of the second meeting of the National Space Council. “Moon, Mars, and World Beyond: Winning the next Frontier” includes testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial, and national security sectors about the importance of the United States’ space enterprise.

Selection to the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group:

  • Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut
  • Tory Bruno, President and CEO of United Launch Alliance
  • Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman
  • Dean Cheng, Scholar at the Heritage Foundation
  • Eileen Collins, 4-time Shuttle astronaut, first female shuttle commander
  • Steve Crisafulli, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
  • Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
  • Adm. Jim Ellis, Retired 4-star Admiral, former head of STRATCOM, and member of the Space Foundation Board of Directors
  • Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity Space
  • Newt Gingrich, Author, former Speaker of the House
  • Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Homer Hickam, Author of the book “Rocket Boys” and former NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center engineer
  • Governor Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama
  • Fred Klipsch, Founder and Chairman of Hoosiers for Quality Education
  • Les Lyles, Retired 4-star Air Force General and member of the NASA Advisory Council
  • Pam Melroy, 3-time Shuttle astronaut and former Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • Dennis Muilenberg, CEO of the Boeing Company
  • Faith Ozmen, CEO of the Sierra Nevada Corporation
  • G.P. Bud Peterson, President of the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Jack Schmitt, Apollo 17 Astronaut and former Senator
  • Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX
  • Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin
  • Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
  • David Thompson, Founder and CEO of Orbital ATK
  • Pamela Vaughan,, Board Certified Science Teacher
  • Mandy Vaughn, President of VOX Launch Company
  • Stu Witt, Founder of Mojave Air and Spaceport, former Navy pilot, former Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
  • David Wolf, 4-time Shuttle astronaut and physician
  • Pete Worden, Former Air Force General and NASA Ames Center Director.

Mike Pence to Lead National Space Council Meeting on Wednesday

Mike Pence

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — On Tuesday, February 20, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There, he will tour the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch facilities and participate in a commercial spaceflight federal reception.

On Wednesday, February 21, Vice President Pence will lead the second meeting of the National Space Council at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “Moon, Mars, and  Worlds Beyond: Winning the Next Frontier,” will include testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial and national security sectors about the importance of the United States’ space enterprise. The Vice President will conclude his visit with a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.

UPDATE: NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the meeting beginning at 10 a.m. EST.

A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!


Future Looks (Mostly) Bright for Space Industry in DC

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through today. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
  • Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are updates based upon their tweets on what is happening in Washington, DC, from talks by officials from the FAA, NASA, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

NASA Establishes Advisory Group for National Space Council

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has established a new advisory group on behalf of the National Space Council that will represent the expertise, interests and perspectives of non-federal aerospace organizations to the National Space Council.

The official charter for the Users’ Advisory Group (UAG) was signed by acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on Dec. 6, and subsequently announced in the Federal Register. It explains, in detail, the role, responsibilities and operation of the advisory group.

The UAG will advise and inform the National Space Council on a broad range of aerospace topics, including the impacts of U.S. and international laws and regulations, national security space priorities relating to the civil and commercial space sectors, scientific and human space exploration priorities, and ways to bolster support for U.S. space priorities and leadership in space.

The UAG will consist of between 15 and 30 members selected to serve in the capacity of either a representative or a special government employee (SGE). Representatives will come from non-federal aerospace organizations, such as private industry, and act as advocates for their sector. SGEs will be selected for their expertise in their particular aerospace field to provide objective advice. More information on the member nomination process will be made available later this month.

The charter is available online at:


NASA Statement on National Space Council Policy on American Space Leadership

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot about the results from the first meeting of the National Space Council on Thursday:

“It was my pleasure today to attend the first meeting of the new National Space Council. The council includes government leaders from civil and military space, and the group also heard from space industry leaders. The council has historic roots in the earliest days of the Space Age, and it has been established by the president to streamline and coordinate national space policy.


Groups Praise First National Space Council Meeting

Vice President Mike Pence delivers opening remarks during the National Space Council’s first meeting. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Praise is rolling in for the first National Space Council meeting on Thursday from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Space Florida and the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration.

Commercial Spaceflight Federation

Earlier today, Vice President Mike Pence chaired the first meeting of the National Space Council. The Space Council, comprised of numerous cabinet and agency heads, was briefed by industry leaders on topics of national security, civil, and commercial space. Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada Corporation were among the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) member companies whose leadership briefed the Space Council. CSF also had a large contingency of member company leadership in attendance at the kickoff meeting.


Pence: National Space Council to Establish Users’ Advisory Group

Credit: The White House

On the eve of the National Space Council meeting on Thursday morning, Vice President Mike Pence has penned an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal outlining the council’s goals.

We will refocus America’s space program toward human exploration and discovery. That means launching American astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since 1972. It means establishing a renewed American presence on the moon, a vital strategic goal. And from the foundation of the moon, America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars.

We will renew America’s commitment to creating the space technology needed to protect national security. Our adversaries are aggressively developing jamming and hacking capabilities that could cripple critical military surveillance, navigation systems and communication networks. In the face of this threat, America must be as dominant in the heavens as it is on Earth.

We will promote regulatory, technological, and educational reforms to expand opportunities for American citizens and ensure that the U.S. is at the forefront of economic development in outer space. In the years to come, American industry must be the first to maintain a constant commercial human presence in low-Earth orbit, to expand the sphere of the economy beyond this blue marble.​

To achieve these goals, the National Space Council will look beyond the halls of government for insight and expertise. In the coming weeks, President Trump and I will assemble a Users’ Advisory Group partly composed of leaders from America’s burgeoning commercial space industry. Business is leading the way on space technology, and we intend to draw from the bottomless well of innovation to solve the challenges ahead.

National Space Council Meeting to be Webcast

Mike Pence

UPDATE: NASA TV will air the meeting.

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — On Thursday, October 5, Vice President Mike Pence will host the first meeting of the National Space Council at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The meeting will bring together all aspects and sectors of the national space enterprise for the first time in a quarter century.

“Leading the Next Frontier: An Event with the National Space Council” will include testimonials from expert witnesses who represent the sectors of the space industry: Civil Space, Commercial Space, and National Security Space.

Date: Thursday, October 5, 2017
Time: 10 a.m. EDT

National Air and Space Museum
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151

Webcast: https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/vice-president-pence-hosts-national-space-council-meeting

What Might Happen to NASA’s Earth Science Programs Under Bridenstine?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Imagine the following scenario: NASA’s Earth Science division gets its budget cut with key missions focused on climate change canceled.

The new NASA administrator then announces the division will be dismantled, with various programs divided among other federal departments, in order to better focus the space agency on exploration. The bulk of the programs end up at NOAA, which the NASA administrator says is a much more appropriate home for them.

NOAA, however, is already reeling from spending cuts. Struggling to perform its own forecasting duties on a reduced budget, the agency has little bandwidth to take on any additional responsibilities. And the funding allocated for the NASA programs that were just transferred over is woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.

The result is a bureaucratic train wreck in which America’s Earth science and climate research programs gradually wither away due to mismanagement, neglect and lack of funding. The ability of the nation — and the world — to understand and address the changes the planet experiencing is greatly reduced. At some future date, another administration will have to rebuild a program in shambles that was once the envy of the world.

Sound far fetched? Think again. It could very well happen if the Trump Administration and the man it has nominated to lead NASA get what they want out of Congress.


Bridenstine Proposed Radical Restructuring of NASA Oversight Last Year

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Donald Trump’s nominee to become administrator of NASA proposed a fundamental overhaul of how the space agency would be run last year.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) proposes the establishment of a 21-member board to oversee the space agency, giving the NASA administrator a five-year term, and the creation of 10- and 20-year strategic plans.

The overarching goal of these proposals is to insulate the space agency from changes in direction each time a new presidential administration takes over.

ASRA was a catch-all bill that contained proposals for broad changes to the nation’s civil, military and commercial space efforts. Bridenstine did not intend the ASRA to be passed as a single bill but as a series of individual measures. Congress has not taken up any of the NASA management reforms included in bill.